Sunday, December 13, 2009

and they said it wouldn't last...

Ubuntu: an ethical concept of African origin emphasizing community, sharing and generosity

One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu - the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can't exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can't be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality - Ubuntu - you are known for your generosity.

We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole world. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.

- Archbishop Desmond Tutu


January 9th, 2010 will mark my 2 year anniversary in Cape Town. No one is more surprised at how quickly the time has gone by that me. It seems so recently that I was writing my first letter to my wonderfully supportive social network, informing them of the journey I was soon to be embarking on, to a city, country and continent I had never before visited, to do work that even then, I knew I would love.

Initially, I had committed to a year in Cape Town at Fezeka High, but as that year quickly came to a close, it became clear that I would stay on for another. And now, as my second year has officially wrapped up, the pull to return for a third is equally strong.

The past two years have not been without event. Not without personal and professional growth and experiences that have touched my heart, mind, being and allowed me a heightened understanding of the world I have been immersed in.

My students are the reason that I have been so addicted to this work. It is because of them that I am one of the few people I know who can say that they truly love their job. Their daily challenges…their struggles…the injustices they face everywhere they look, coupled with their desire and dedication to learning, are humbling in the deepest sense of the word. Bit by bit, they have allowed me into their worlds. They have trusted me, shared with me, cried with me, belly-aching laughed with me, taught me. In return, I have given them my time, my ears, my shoulders, my brain, my heart. In so doing, I have formed a relationship with many of them, with some of the members of their communities, with their families – a relationship that is novel to so many of them (my students in particular) in the sense that I am the only white-skinned person with whom they have contact.

Through the birth of the poetry club, the chess club, the photography program and the drama club that I have been so fortunate to have been asked to share in, some students now enjoy the opportunity to express and engage themselves in arts-based initiatives previously foreign to them. Having had the privilege of teaching two of my classes for both the years I have been here, I have witnessed the English-language skills of several students improve remarkably during that time, through in-class activities, their spoken vocabulary and exam results.

As any teacher can tell you, it is these moments, these acknowledgements and understanding that make our profession so rewarding. And for me, in this context, these moments are many.

The words of encouragement and support I have received from my students, their families, my colleagues never fails to floor me as I constantly feel that it is me who is so fortunate to be afforded the opportunity to work with these kids, to share in their energy, to encourage their growth, to push them to dream big.

I have committed to returning to Fezeka for just over half of the next school year, to continue the work I have started since arriving. Because of the overwhelmingly generous support of those who have provided me with moral support, as well as financial and emotional, I am in a position to be able to do this for that duration. It is difficult to put into words the gratitude I feel towards those who have helped me to be able to continue working with these incredible kids. I am ever-grateful to those who have helped to thus far for enriching my life in some way, for helping me to understand the true meaning of ubuntu through first-hand experience.

To anyone who themselves have a journey they feel drawn to, an adventure they want to embark upon, I pass on the words of one of my grade 10 students, a brilliant young man who I have no doubt will do great things:

‘If you want your dreams to come true, don’t spend too much time sleeping. Open your eyes and realize.’

With warmth and thanks,


Tuesday, November 3, 2009


It’s a funny thing, this feeling. I vividly remember the first time I experienced some form of it. I was nine years old. My birthday party, that my mom and I had been excitedly planning for some time, had just wrapped up. The guests had gone home, the mess put away, and I was sitting with my mom in our living room.

‘Mama, I feel…sad? I feel like, we just looked forward to it so much and now it’s over?’

She smiled at me. ‘Anti-climax girlie. That’s the feeling you’re experiencing. When you are looking forward to something a lot, preparing and getting excited for it for some time, there are certain expectations that go along with how it will turn out. Then the day comes and goes, and even if it’s a wonderful day, where everything goes as planned, there is often a feeling of sadness or being let down that follows because it all over. Feeling this way is normal.’ And then she gave me a big hug.

Throughout my life there have been a number of occasions upon which I have had the confusing sadness associated with this feeling, they were usually after a big event that I have put a lot of time and energy into planning.

Which is why I initially felt confused about why I feel this way today.

I sat and thought about it for a bit in my classroom just now. And then it came to me.

I will be away from school for the next three days, and exams officially start on Monday, meaning this is my last day of classes with my students for the year. In addition, the Grade 12s, whom I taught in Grade 11 and many of whom spent a lot of time in my classroom this year despite my not being their teacher, are leaving. When they finish their exams in a couple weeks, there is a good chance I will never see any of them again. This makes me sad.

My two classes of grade 11s, whom I taught last year and again this year, and with whom I have connected and established what I believe is a good educator-learner relationship will likely be taught by another teacher next year. As I am not officially employed by the state’s Department of Education the management of Fezeka is wary of giving me a grade 12 class for administrative and accountability purposes.

The Grade 10s, whom I have struggled with since the beginning of the year, who are routinely very challenging when it comes to eking out any sort of class participation, the majority of whom are completely apathetic about their learning, despite my best efforts to the contrary, are likely the only students I will continue with next year. Not that this is in any way a negative thing, just the way things are.

And then there are the feelings of self-doubt in regards to my teaching and how well the students will do on their exams. Are they prepared enough? Have I done enough? I want to think that I have, but the pudding with the proof will ultimately be the test.

But the anti-climax…

Saying goodbye is never easy. Its one of the things I do worst. And saying goodbye to these kids, kids I’ve spent so much time with over the past two years, who have come to me when they need advice, who have shared their life stories with me, who smile when I pass them by, who feel so flattered when I remember their name or to ask them about something that I know is going on in their lives, just the thought of these goodbyes brings tears to my eyes.

And yes, this is part and parcel of the teaching profession, to which those who are teachers can attest. But with these kids…I don’t know. I feel different? Perhaps it’s the freedom with which they speak with me, how much about themselves, their lives, their communities, that they are willing, wanting to share.

Perhaps it’s because I have become so connected with them not just in a teaching capacity but in the extra-curricular activities I have involved myself in, both in and out of school. Perhaps my open-door policy has something to do with it. Or perhaps it is because I know that for many of these kids – far too many of them have no one to listen to them – I am one of, if not the, only adult figure in their lives with whom they can open up, ask any question, without the fear of rejection or abuse. Who knows? These are of course, all assumptions and hypotheses and can also be way off on all of it.

I don’t know.

The only thing I can speak to with absolute certainty is how I’m feeling right now. And about how much I will miss these kids when they leave.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Friday, 11:58 am.

Alone in my cool classroom, I sit and read. On my right, a soprano from the choir sings strains of an unfamiliar aria in the schoolyard, her beautiful voice wafting through my door. Through the open windows to my left, birds chirp happily, eagerly announcing the impending arrival of summer. A hundred metres down the way the entire grade 12 class has assembled for their final assembly as today is their last official day of lessons. Intermittently, their raucous laughter and thunderous applause crackles through the air, raising the hair on my arms. And above all, the ever-present cacophony of students' voices - chattering, laughing, screaming, whispering - fills the warm late-october air...

Thursday, October 8, 2009

outside the fishbowl looking in..

During the spring break of last week, four students from Fezeka participated in a conference called Shikaya with students from a variety of schools across Cape Town. The three-day forum included discussions, debates, guest speakers and the exchange of ideas on various issues facing the youth of this country and South Africa as a whole, focusing particularly on the use of statistics and a rating system developed by the Mo Ibrahim foundation (

On Monday following a particularly heated meeting with the English department (more on that to follow), our Principal asked me if I could drive these four students to a school in Rondebosch where they would participate in the closing ceremony of the conference, including with an audience with the board of the foundation, a London-based NGO that rates the countries in Africa based on a range of criteria, offering a $5M incentive to the leader of the country that manages to top the list each year. More information can be found on their website.

The event was held at Rondebosch Boys High School. Despite being touted as a government school by the event organizer, it was difficult to imagine how this could be. From the time we drove onto the campus, it was like we were in an alternate universe. Beautiful wide tree-lined roads wove their way in and around the property. Lush green fields and plants were everywhere you looked. Stunning, well-maintained and massive structures housed the administration, school and various other buildings. A cricket field and soccer pitch, complete with their respective clubhouses rounded out one edge of the campus. As the students and I walked along one of the roads towards the location of the event, their awe was impossible to ignore. Their silence as they took it all in was interrupted only by the occasional ooh and ahh. I later found out that this “government school” has annual school fees of R40K. Right.

When we reached our destination we sat on the grass outside for a bit while the rest of the students arrived. The organizer had asked the students to think of some questions they may like to ask the board about what they had learnt during the conference, or that they may have about their rating system. They asked me for help with their questions so we sat and discussed. Despite the rating focussing predominately on economic development, the kids said that they had also talked about education and crime in South Africa. Sensing an opportunity, I asked them what they thought about the education system in this country, if they thought it was fair. They did not. I agreed and asked them to give me an example of how this is true.

“Look around you miss. Look at these trees. This grass. These buildings. You don’t see kids bunking. You don’t see rubbish everywhere. Why do these kids get to have this kind of education, these kinds of things [facilities]? How come we don’t?”

This had been exactly what I had been fishing for. The stark contrast between the school and environment we had left 20 minutes earlier and the one at which we currently found ourselves had not been lost on them. Sad as the reality of the situation was, I was happy to hear that they were at least aware of this sort of inequality.

I asked them how it made them feel when they looked around the campus surrounding us.

“I feel….small.” said one.
“Wow.” said another, under his breath.

We spoke about how they mustn’t feel small, that they mustn’t ever allow anyone – or anything – else to make them feel small. That the advantages enjoyed by the students at this school were no reflection on them as individuals, merely of the opportunities they had been lucky to benefit from, because of where and the privilege into which, they were born. By that same token, my students had been born into a disadvantaged reality. Neither them nor the students at Rondebosch boys high school had asked or done anything to be born into either world. It’s just the way it is.

We continued talking. The issue of crime and violence in South Africa was raised. What causes crime? I asked.

“Poverty.” answered one.
“Can you expand on that?” I asked.
“When you are hungry you are not thinking with your head, you are thinking with your stomach. When your tummy is rumbling you can’t think of anything else.” she continued.

As we were heading into the clubhouse for the discussion, a student from another township school approached me.

“Miss, do you teach at Fezeka?”
“I do sweetie, yes.”
“Wow. I never expected that. I thought maybe you would teach at a school like this – but a township school? Shuuu.”

The discussion was an interesting one, as the students – diverse as South Africa comes – asked a number of interesting and well thought-out questions. I was impressed at the degrees of critical thinking expressed by many of them. At the same time, there was clearly a difference between the competency levels of the students, particularly when it came to the knowledge and grasp of the English language. This saddened me. The students that had been selected from Fezeka were among the top students in their grade but yet they were miles apart from their colleagues from wealthier schools. Not that this came as any surprise but as my exposure to students from these schools is very limited, it was a jarring reminder.

I couldn’t help but smile as my students asked some of the questions we had discussed, with their own twists. One of my favourite answers from the panel came from the only South African member (it is an international collaboration, with members from all over the world). When one of my students asked her what she thought about the fact that there were so few green spaces and recreational activities available to youth and how libraries are all but non-existent, in disadvantaged communities, she wholeheartedly agreed with him on the greatness of this injustice.

“This issue is not one of a lack of funds,” she continued, “every year the Minister of recreation returns with a surplus in his budget. The money to build parks is there. The fact that this isn’t happening is because of poor organization and mis-management at the implementation level. I am glad to hear you are aware of this however, and support you in your mission to change things. You need to make yourselves heard though. Take advantage of 2010. The world’s eyes will be on South Africa. The powers that be don’t want the world to know that your schools don’t have libraries or that poor kids don’t have places to play. They don’t want people to be aware of how much worse off township schools are then richer schools, especially when they’ve sunk billions of ZAR into that “fish bowl” [referring to the Green Point stadium that is being constructed for the world cup, to be used for only 8 games]. The world cup is your window to have your voices heard. Take it.”

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

blood boiling

As discussed in earlier entries, at the end of the second term we experienced a loss of two English teachers. On the last day of classes before the Winter break, we were informed that one of these teachers had gotten a job teaching at another school. The other would be on “stress leave” for the duration of the third term. This last minute news left the English department and school administration in a very difficult situation. The late notice of these absences meant it would be all but impossible to find replacement teachers before school re-opened 3 weeks later. Their unexpected departure was especially problematic as both teachers taught Grade 12

It was not until the end of the second week of the third term that a replacement teacher was found for one teacher and mid-way through the third week that another was procured. To their credit, both of the replacement teachers did a stellar job picking up the slack left by the departing teachers, doing their best to get to know students and trying to catch them up on the work that had been missed in the earlier part of the term.

In the interest of preventing the Grade 12 from falling too far behind in those weeks that there were no replacement teachers, the English Head of Department shuffled around and switched the Grade 12 classes of the departing teachers with some of the Grade 11 and Grade 10 classes of the existing staff. This way, the Grade 12s were taught all the way through (especially important as they were preparing for exams), and the new teachers taught those other Grade 11 and 10 classes when they joined our staff.

Despite the fact that taking on Grade 12 classes midway through the year, as they are preparing to write exams (and the corresponding marking of said exams – in English this means 3 exams for each student, one for Language, one for Literature, and one for Writing), the teachers who were given these new classes took them on without complaint, recognizing that this sort of thing was part of the job and that their priorities were the students, not their own interests.

All went well until we reopened this week.

The teacher who had been on “stress leave” returned. As some of her classes had been redistributed, she was given the timetable that the teacher that had filled in for her had been using.

She was not happy about this.

As is the practice, we had a departmental meeting on the first day back from break in preparation for the upcoming term, to touch base and make sure we are on the same page with our classes. During the meeting the teacher who had been absent raised the question of why she was not given her original classes back. She indicated her upset at not having being informed of this timetabling change and stated that she wanted to return to teaching her Grade 12s and be able to take them to moderation. Sidebar – the final term of the year for Grade 12 is the least teaching-intensive. About half the term is spent doing review for the final exams, the other half of the term students spend writing exams that are marked externally. Those teachers then take 9 examples of their students’ work – 3 exceptional students, 3 average students and 3 poor students – to their subject advisor from the Western Cape Department of Education for review. All this technically means that very little work and almost no marking must go into the 4th term for Grade 12 teachers. This is an added bonus for English teachers as in our subject area marking abounds during the rest of the year.

To put it more plainly, this teacher, who had been absent for the entire third term, thereby missing all the teaching and marking that goes along with the exams written during this time, and who, incidentally, is the absolute WORST offender of negligence and absenteeism when she is here (I have referred to her in more than one blog entry), was now upset because she had not returned to a cushy final term of the year. Her expectation that she would be given her classes again meant that if fulfilled, those teachers who picked up her slack would once again be given a great deal of marking at the end of the year for those Grade 10 and 11 classes that had been switched for the Grade 12s (the end of year Grade 10 and 11 exams are marked internally, and these grades do not write exams in the third term). Her gall was unbelievable.

During the meeting, which became quite heated and (if I’m being honest), would likely not have taken place in any of the schools I have previously been in, rules of professional conduct and the like), this teacher actually said she refused to teach the classes she had been given. Refused. She said she had expected to teach her Grade 12s and that she did not want to teach Grade 11. What she was really saying was that she did not want the workload associated with teaching Grade 11 and had no problem shirking her responsibility and giving the work to her colleagues who had been her back when she was gone.

I felt very sorry for my (normally very calm) head of department. I had never seen him so angry and emotional. On more than one occasion I had to step in and mediate, although this was extremely difficult for me out of fear I would say something I would regret, and came very close to doing so more than once.

After a great deal of back and forth, during which her insolence and nerve became more and more unpalatable, we closed the meeting with her refusal to do her job, fulfil her contractual obligation and responsibility towards the students, noted in the meeting minutes.

The blood boiling experience of this meeting was worsened by my knowledge that because of the intricacies of the red tape associated with firing someone who is a union member, the disciplinary action related to this teacher’s blatant unprofessionalism will struggle to accomplish anything of substance before the year is out, if at all.

Friday, September 4, 2009

safety first?

Students are not shocked by violence; it is not something out of the ordinary for them. A gun being found in the boy’s washroom last week was news for a day, then forgotten. A couple of days later I was speaking with a group of kids and I asked them their thoughts on the gun left lying around in the school. if it worried them, made them feel unsafe. They laughed.

‘Miss, where we come from, guns are everywhere. Everyone knows the gangsters carry them. This is just the first time one was found at school. You see how many kids turned up at school the next day? Same as always. The gun being found didn’t keep anyone away. Why should it?’

But what about the security guards? I naively asked. Again, they laughed.

‘Miss, the security guards? What security guards? You mean the people who are hired to watch the gate and patrol the school? They are a joke. They don’t do anything to help keep us safe. They don’t even control the gate properly. You see, many of the gangsters live in the same communities as the guards (known in Xhosa as ‘bambanani’s). The gangsters know where to find them. They know that they go to a certain shabeen on the weekends to get drunk, they know where they live. If the bambananis try to mess with them at school they can easily go after them or their families. The bambananis know this to. The gangsters smoke right in front of the bambananis. They blow smoke in their faces. They know they are basically untouchable because the bambananis aren’t going to risk their safety or the safety of their families for their jobs. You can’t have bambananis that live in the same area as the school working at the school. I don’t know why the principal and teachers don’t understand that.’

Monday, August 24, 2009

vive la resistance!

Due to car trouble I arrived late at school last week Thursday. Pulling into the parking lot I immediately sensed that something was going on. Entering the main schoolyard my intuitions were confirmed even though it was class time, students were standing around everywhere, chanting, singing and waving signs. This was strange.

The staffroom was abuzz with activity when I walked in. Teachers talking amongst themselves, others trying to create order. I asked a colleague what was going on.

‘The students are on strike,’ she replied.

On strike? I was surprised and amused at the same time. ‘Why?’ I asked her.

‘They are demanding their reports, they are demanding teachers, they are demanding to be taught.’

I went out into the schoolyard to speak to some students. I was the only teacher out there as the rest were seeking refuge in the staffroom or their offices. Here I saw messages that had been scrawled on pieces of paper, cardboard, wood – anything they could find. Messages such as ‘Fezeka has failed us’, ‘We demand physics teachers!’ and ‘We we want to apply for Varsity! Where are our reports?!’ were taped to doorways of classrooms and held high in the air while students chanted and sung songs of struggle and resistance in their mother tongues. (Needless to say I needed an interpreter to learn that these were what they were.)

Although my heart has swelled with pride for various reasons in the past, but the way in which it did so upon learning this information was different. I couldn’t believe it. They were putting their feet down and demanding the education they deserve. I was excited.

As discussed in previous blogs, the issue of teacher absenteeism and neglect is rife at our school, and I have been an active proponent of encouraging students to speak out against these injustices. For the most part my appeals have been just that, but it appeared that today was different. And the students were acting on their own volition! The issue of reports was because the students had not yet received any reports for the school year – not from March when they are supposed to be issued their first reports, not from June when they are to be issued their second reports. While no students have received their reports, the June reports are of particular importance to the Grade 12s as it is post-secondary institutions require students to submit them with their applications. It is now mid August.

There are a couple reasons why students had not yet received their reports. First and foremost is that there are some teachers who have not yet submitted their marks – for neither the first or second term. Secondly, there is the issue of teachers who do not come to school or leave midway or halfway through the term and do not return, feeling no sense of obligation to finish marking their exams or submitting marks

In an effort to appease the unrest, hurriedly-printed and inaccurate reports were distributed to students. I am still unclear on who made the decision to do this, and how they could have possibly thought the students would accept them. Of course they did not, and the strike continued for 2 more days.

On Friday after school the School Governing Board met with the entire staff, members of the Learner Representative Council and community members to reach a decision on how to move forward. It was decided at this meeting that teachers would not leave that evening until reports were properly assembled and marks recorded so that students could be issued their reports the following Monday. A group of us stayed at school until close to 6pm, trying to make order of the piles of incomplete mark lists, lacking marks because the teachers who were responsible for recording them had not done so or were no longer a part of the Fezeka family.

By Tuesday reports had been reissued and things had calmed down somewhat. Caught up with my own students and various after school activities I neglected to follow up with students to see if they were satisfied with their updated reports. As I did not hear anything to the contrary I assumed the matter was resolved. I was wrong.

It is now the second week of September and many students still have yet to receive accurate reports. As I sit in the office typing this there is a stack of reports next to me that list students having passed all their courses but because of a computer error (?) the result at the bottom of the page still lists them as not promoted. I am at a loss.

The student strike was indeed the first step in the right direction towards students taking their education into their own hands and sending a message that they refuse to put up with sub-standard education. Unfortunately, as is oft the case with expressions of discontent, this first step must be followed by many more in order to actually get someplace. I sincerely hope they have the courage to continue to demand their rights.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

essay essais

What follows are a few outstanding examples of essays that my Grade 11 students wrote as part of their June exam. The question or topic they are responding to is written above the respective essays.

[Media Awareness] Today more than ever in history, young people are exposed to endless forms of the media [television, radio, movies, magazines, music, Internet] and advertising.

Write an essay describing what effect you think the media has on young people. Is it a positive or a negative thing? Be sure to support your point of view with evidence and examples from your life and experience.

Media have changed peoples life especially us as young people.
TV has drag us to make wrong desicions because we want to follow the fame and don’t want to listen to our biological parents. Since the media have been allowed to show everything we are falling apart.

People now don’t want to attend school because of media. Some of them they see easy ways of getting money, those ways are not good, killing people, robbing innocent people because they have been exposed to easy ways by media.

Children are carrying guns in streets, smoking in streets because they see States boys doing those things on TV and that’s not that they thinks it is, because states boys are just acting or casting movies when they do that.

Some parent are killing their children like media parents play big role on getting behind media are a big support. How can you let your child watch TV all night but you are in the house? You call yourself a lovely parent you are killing your child future.

Children are bunking schools today even here in my school they say we are coming from rich families like USA countries that’s what media encourage? I’d better not be involved in media in my life.

Children are making stress their mothers because of what have seen on TV like clothes, shoes they put their mothers unders a lot of pressure wanting those things.

In all media has demolished our lives we must try to make a plan before this thing of media goes further.

[Community change] Many young people turn to crime, violence or engage in unprotected sex (putting them at risk for STIs, HIV/AIDS and pregnancy) our of boredom. What do you think can be done to help lessen this problem? What are some suggestions that you may have for what communities, schools, youth groups and families can do to help prevent the boredom that leads youth to taking part in these activities?

Write an essay discussing three ideas you have to help keep young people away from crime, violence and sex at an early age, and how you think these ideas can help change the future.

In my essay i will be talking about commit change and what i think can be done to help solve this problem and violence and drugs.

Many young people turn to doing crime in many ways because of the drugs they are doing drugs are so bad especially on young people cause they engage themselves on bad thing and end up hurting people who are close to each other like hurting a community members you end up hurting the whole family. And drugs are not good at all because when you are using drugs you are killing yourself and orthers around you and you will end up going to prison cause you will be caught with a drug and you will be not in a good place there it will not be the life you use to live when you were outside stop using drug young people drugs are not good at all.

Young people end up engaging themselves in violence and unprotected sex and they get infected with disease like stis and HIV and Aids and remember you are still young to get involved in sex and stuff. You end up being dead cause you will be infected with Aids and it kills there is no cure for it so as a young person dont engage yourself in those things. and also teenage pregnancy is also one of thsoe problems experienced by young people.

In order for young people to stop engaging themselves in those bad things they do they must focus on the important thing happening in their lives like doing their home chores, spending time with their family and spend much more time on their school work because education is the key to success and by focussing on their educati they will experience big things beautiful things are get a decent job and have a big family and being parent so young people stop engaging yourselves in bad things.


I am going to talk about the changing of youth thoughts which lead to a bad life and then regret it.

Most of youth involve to all this stuffs under certain circumstances. Some is becuase of poverty and some is choosing bad friends and not listerning to their parents and their fall in huge mistakes which their can't afford to handle and they finishing killing themselves.

I think as South Afircans especially parents must stand against these problems to save their childrens because most of parents have fell a deep pain about their childrens choosing a wrong path. Because everywhere in the world people are facing these challanges in order fix this matter we must stand up and fight it.
Communities, schools, youth groups and families as i have mentioned above we must come witha new system to the youth lifes for instance in schools there must be mroe say and teach the youth about the way to success before ruining their lives

I think all this kind of drugs can be ended maybe some of the youth will stop what their started doing.

My essay i think can make a huge difference in on life before choosing a wrong path.

[Hope for the future] Apartheid officially ended in South Africa in 1994 yet today, 14 years later, there is still a big difference in how many people in this country live. What are your thoughts on this? How does this make you feel? Do you think South Africa will ever be a country where all of its people live equally?

Write an essay describing your thoughts on this, examples from your life to support your view and what you think it will take or can be done to create a truly equal and free Rainbow Nation.

In this essay i am going to write about the Hope of this country and it's future as well, and how do i see this state we are livig in as an African.

In South Africa our country the are many different types of races and they treat others different to others.

Discrimination in our countryt is a living thing. Many people feel ofended by others almost every day in this democratic country of us. we as africans are discriminated by other groups like other whites still have racism i know it from me last mont i went to a party in Good Wood we were waiting for our transport to pick us up about 2am and as we are waiting police white police came to us and searched us and they got nothing and they opened the spray guns and the choking guns to us. And told us that this is not our fucken Guguleth and sad to me you are now in the boors place there's no (kak) they don't take (kak) so i still see this country as a racis and a country that has no good future amongst the races we live with everyday.

Equality is a thing that a black person will find once in a while. i see this as a useless relatiship and ended up being understanded by the others who come from the overseas countries not those we live with in everyday life.

So people must not just do anything to others because God knows the prosperity of a person.

The black alws feel offended so as this is happening this discrimination i say so i dont think our country can have a good future because in our every day life the must be a big stone un front of us. Why Africans? Why our people?

If you as a new person in this country can just go to our places and just look you'll have/see a big difference with the whites are living in.

The black singer called (Mzwakhe Mbuli) has a song saying (Nobakunini Kuzokulungo), no matter when everything will be fine so a black person alwys say it will be better. People use to say blacks used to be a race that suffers but i dont think it is over or that i am mistaken about the way life is to our people.

In this essay i have written about the thing that our people expirience in their daily life but no offence!


[Personal Growth and Development] “It was at that moment that I knew my life would change forever.”

Write an essay in which this sentence appears. Be sure to describe the event that caused you to feel this way and how your life changed as a result, for better or for worse.

The time I knew it all, all the drama I have been through I never though I’ll make it that it would change from who I was to who I am I thought I had it all from my friend’s rapist, alcoholic mother and an abusive boyfriend that turned my life around.

It was drama only. We were scare, hurt and shocked at the sametime. My friend was rape in the room next to mind I just couldn’t believe I felt I have betrayed her but no. She couldn’t sream for help and I dint to couse we woud have been dead can you image a gang rape? Those scard, angry eyes of those men it was if I was dreaming a nightmare but no then trashed naked on the stadium OH it was painful.

At home I couldn’t focuse, I was so distracted my mind was seeng hearing my friends pain at the samtime percuted by my alcoholic mother who drank every night sleeping with not even knowing their names, so I have to search for her every inch of corner tarven to tarven I was stressed, alone and bored I life. I needed love.

I mean love of support so I turned to this guy. As I was confused and stress I told him everything all about my life he ment the world I was just hideng those stress by being with him and it go worse. He started being abusi emotional verbal and physical as I dint see it at first I thought he loved me it got worse lost my 1 ear hearing and sight now I knew it was enough.

I wrapped but my things under-go council at my community and realise the way more to life than that I found love, love that I feel by my self.


The soft summer breeze came in softly to the ghastly sun shining over the horizon. Making my way home from school, it was on the same day on which I learnt a very cruel lesson. I still knew that this would happen but not like it did, well it was at that moment that i knew my life would change.

My home is situated on the crescent valley of Leloaleng near the historical cave of Mesotho, Masitise. I was in love with Dibuseng, the chiefs daughter and had been told many times to back off, but it was as if instead of blood I had iron fillings flowing through my vein and someone was holding a large piece of magnet over her and nothing could separate Dibuseng and I.

We were strolling near the tarred road that zig-zagged like a huge snake. At one point we sank seemingly in merriment as we carresed each other. We were so mesmerised that we were oblivious of an intruder. It was at that point that the most unspeakable tragedy unfolded before my eyes.

As we walked a black BMW 320i model pulled up a few metres away from us. The big man walked flamboyantly to us. He did not greet but kissed and hugged Dibuseng and told her to go to the car and instantaneously pulled a gun from his waist and told me to seat. My mind was numb as this horrendous drama happened. He said in this hoarse voice "stay away from my wife because next time i will kill you," and fired eight bullets on my knees. It was at that moment when my life changed.

I do not recall what happened afterwards but woke up in hospital and told that my life will be spent in a wheelchair. Since then I have never loved a woman and all my dreams have been torn apart my life has veritably changed. That horrendous drama changed my life forever. Since then I have not been very coherent, I have changed.


Friday, July 31, 2009

more gold.

The Inner Pain

The pain which I feel
I feel it
I can even sense his hatred
How he grabbed me
How he enjoyed raping me
While I was crying
How I wish I could just
I can’t bear the pain
It is too hard
The pain I can’t express
The pain which was given
to me
Inner Pain


Tears of the World

Tears of the world
I mean look at the world
What they have done
to you
My wonderful land

Tears of the world
Look what they have done to you my wonderful land
I ask? myself is this
the start of tomorrow
or is this the end of

My thoughts make me
wonder – Where is the love
hope respect trust?
My thoughts make me
wonder – Where is the
future of tomorrow?

OH! you black poor person
OH! you black poor person
You just make me wonder
where is the future of

Tears of the world
Where is the hope of
the world?

Tears of the world
Where is the hope for
the world?


Hold me Close

Hold me close
Make me feel at home
The love that you gave me
Made me the happiest person
In the world

Even in the dark days
Sleeping on the streets
I still felt your love
And comfort
You never stopped believing
In me

You made me
Feel at home
Hold me close



Your hand is a shining crystal
As pure as gold
Your heart is full of pity
You are a star lighting up the dark
You make the world a place of peace
and paradise
You are everybody to somebody
Only you


Whats there to live for?

When my heart is piling with
Empty stomach cries of
My heart beats with
hatred and Anger

Having to live with
An alcoholic mother
An abusive father
A prostitute siser

“NO!” I cry out loud

Where is the leader?
Where are the providers?
I mean the givers?

I seek love
I seek help



Thou shall come
Embrace and face
The provision and lights
Thou shall be
Reality and responsibility
With smile in miles
With strength in struggle
With patience in vision
Thou shall come
Thou shall be
I salute you, Education.


I know I can
Change the world
Change the world
My mind, body, spirit
and soul tells me so

Pledge my hand and
give my time
to change the world for good
for each stride I take

My history
I am a child of revolution
I know I can change the world
Change the world

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I feel like crying…

Yesterday, realizing that August is almost upon us, it occurred to me that Grade 12 students who are planning on attending Varsity or continuing on with their students next year should have had their bursary applications in by now. A quick search on the internet that evening told me that for many scholarship and bursary applications, the deadline to apply is July 31st – this Friday. I asked a few of my students from last year who I know would qualify for bursaries based on their marks and in- and out-of-school activities if their bursary applications had been submitted. They all told me that they are planning on applying but that they had not yet done so. When I told them that the deadline was this Friday, all were shocked. I told them I would see what I could do and would contact as many schools, companies and organizations that offer money for post-secondary education to see if there was not any way around this deadline and if an extension could be offered.

Today I spoke with two people – the first was with an employee at the National Student Financial Aid Scheme who told me that students must contact institutions of higher education directly as they give money to the schools for them to distribute.

The other person with whom I spoke with was with a company called Careerwise. This is basically a brokerage firm that acts on behalf companies and organizations that allocate some of their budget for bursaries, connecting them with the most deserving students who apply.

It was my conversation with this second person that was most disheartening. After hearing my plea to allow for an extension on the deadline so as to permit my students to apply, he empathetically told me that because of the global recession the number of bursaries they had available to give out has been drastically reduced this year. Normally they are given somewhere around 400 bursaries to distribute. This year, they received less than half that number. He said he did not want to allow my students to apply for bursaries that he knew they would not get. I asked him if this meant that he was telling me that all the bursaries they had had already been allocated. He told me yes.

I thanked him and hung up the phone feeling incredibly sad. Sad for the fact that the companies with whom Careerwise is connected are likely not unique in cutting their bursary and scholarship budgets. Chances are this is an industry-wide phenomenon, symptomatic of businesses looking for the fastest, easiest and least painful ways to stem the haemorrhaging of money that the global financial crisis has caused. Understandably cutbacks are required in tough times like these, but I could not help but feel angry and the choices these companies and organizations had made. Cutting salaries and executive perks is troublesome, but cutting back financial support for students – the actual tangible difference between these kids having a future and not having a future – is more palatable?

Further, the fact that many application deadlines had passed poses an additional frustration. Of course, deadlines exist for a reason. As a teacher I understand their importance more than most. But why had students not been informed of these opportunities far before their submission closing dates? It took a colleague and I actively seeking out these prospects on our own time (Internet has not been working at school for months), to find them. No in-school bursary information session was held, no on-campus resources exist for students to access or explore on their own. This dearth of information is crippling in an almost literal sense.

Over the next stretch I will do what I can with the help of friends to investigate alternate bursary opportunities whose application deadlines have yet to pass. Impossible to ignore however is the reality of how stiff the competition will be if there are indeed any to be found and applied for, given the limited availability that will exist for reasons already mentioned.

Yesterday President Zuma promised to ensure that learners who are eligible for varsity but can’t afford tuition will be supported by the government although a timeframe for this initiative was not given. Whether or not this promise is lip service or an actual commitment that will materialize remains to be seen. Either way, the majority of the most financially disadvantaged grade 12 learners from 2009 are facing a bleak outlook for next year and beyond.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


One of my housemates Suzanne’s classmates is a 24-year old Zimbabwean boy who is here on a partial scholarship and whose family scraped together the rest of the money so that he could attend the University of Cape Town. He is the first one in his family to attend university.

2 months ago his uncle died, a month ago his father died. They both died of malaria.


Something that in this day and age no one should be dying from.

Suzanne told me today that because her classmate is the eldest boy in the family he must now leave school and return home to care for the family. In his father’s absence his uncle would normally take on this responsibility, only his uncle is also dead.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Reconciling myself...

After the safety question, the second question I am usually asked when I tell people what I do is:

“Oh you teach in a township? Is it hard? It must be really hard…”

My answer, as previously mentioned, generally does not change and falls along the lines of recognizing and understanding how difficult the lives of my students and their social locations are, is hard. Teaching in a township is no harder than any other teaching job I have had in the past. The challenges that exist because of my students’ poor literacy skills are tied into the poverty into which they have been forced, that has equipped them with a sub-par primary education, giving them building blocks so weak that everything that comes next is shaky at best.

A close second to my beef with irresponsible teachers is my frustration at my inability to connect with more students, and recognizing those students whom I am unable to help. Students who are so far gone down the path of illiteracy, having been ushered through the school system despite being unable to read or spell. These students need intense, one-on-one tutoring if they are to even have a fighting chance at a decent job down the line. Unfortunately, nothing like that exists for them and as such, for all intents and purposes, they are lost.

It is only very recently that I have started to come to terms with the fact that I can’t help every student. I give all of me to the students I work with, whether they are in classes I teach or not. I love them and I will do anything for them. I only work with about 200 students out of 1100 enrolled. A year and a half and I have only just begun to accept that that is enough. It’s not ideal. But that’s okay.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

enabling the apathy.

President Zuma, in his recent state of the nation said the following:

“We reiterate our nonnegotiables. Teachers should be in school, in class, on time, teaching, with no neglect of duty and no abuse of pupils. The children should be in class, on time, learning, be respectful of their teachers and do their homework.”


If only it were that easy.

While it is encouraging to see the current administration taking an interest in the education system and the issue of teacher motivation and absenteeism, something tells me we are a long way from seeing a tangible difference in any of these areas. And I’m not talking about the students. They are the least of my worries.

A Western foreigner who has spent the last year and a half volunteer teaching at a school in the Cape Flats, my frustration with those of my colleagues who do not attend and/or teach their classes has perhaps been my one greatest challenge. Oftentimes I have observed teachers who shirk responsibility and seemingly feel no obligation towards their students. Little else infuriates me more. A further issue is how the other teachers – those who do honour their contractual obligations and actually attend and teach their lessons – too play a role in this blatant disregard for students’ best interests. While I have had discussions with many teachers on the subject of the negligent teachers and these teachers have been in agreement with my grievances, I have never once seen any of them criticize or come down on those who are guilty of these behaviours. In no way does it seem to interfere with their relationships with the delinquent teachers and more often than not when teachers are bunking class, there are at least one or two other teachers (who are legitimately free) joking around and passing time in the staffroom with them, in so doing passively condoning this despicable behaviour.

In France, those convicted of ‘Non-assistance a personne en danger’ are punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a 1000 euro fine. In North America, Good Samaritan laws similarly though to a less severe extent obligate people to assist those in need when they see or are aware of a crime being committed. Granted we are not talking of crimes of neglect, abuse and murder in the literal sense, but how about in the figurative? Neglect of their duty towards their students? Abuse of their power as adults in positions of authority over these kids and as such the kids are reluctant to challenge them or speak up about their teachers’ absenteeism? Murder of students’ intellectual potential? Sabotage of their futures? Are these not crimes?

Having never been one who is afraid to speak my mind, it has been – shall we say – challenging for me to keep quiet on how I feel about those teachers who are guilty of these offences. Always aware that I am an outsider who has managed to unintentionally rock the boat before, I am wary of speaking out against these teachers when none of my colleagues seem to feel this same need.

When I encourage those students who aren’t being taught to speak up for themselves – to tell their teacher that they want to be taught, to tell the principal that they demand to be taught, to start and circulate a petition – my urging is met with blank looks and nods. But nothing ever comes of it. The idea that they have rights in the educational machine escapes the majority of students, through no fault of their own. As if the challenges they face are not substantial enough in their own right.

Going into the exams that students began writing today, I feel confident that my students are as prepared for their English and Life Orientation exams as they individually can be for what will be required of them. I have done my best to ensure that this is the case. I cannot speak with the same confidence about the students of my colleagues. As of day before yesterday one such colleague had not taught one of the poems that will be on the exam, and when the opportunity to have the poem taught by someone else (visiting American University students who have no teaching experience) arose, my colleague jumped on it without a second thought. This is the same poem that I wrote about in a recent blog, upon which I spent several lessons and extension activities to permit a wider understanding and appreciation of the poem. Granted, my education and experience has equipped me with perhaps a weightier arsenal of teaching techniques. In acknowledgement of this I routinely share all resources, ideas and lesson plans that I seek out and create, with my colleagues, in so taking the burden of preparation off their shoulders. But it seldom makes a difference.

Earlier today I spoke with an Education without Borders colleague about these issues and why by contrast I seem to care about my students more than certain colleagues. I told him that I don’t think that it is fair to compare me to them, as our social location, education and experience differs so significantly. I am here volunteering because I want to and I have the resources to do so. I come from a loving family that has always supported me. I am fortunate to have had the freedom to travel. And I know at the end of the day, I am driving off the school property, out of Gugs, into Cape Town and my other life. Unlike so many of them, there is light all around me, not just darkness. I don’t spend my weekends at funerals or go home to children and unpaid bills.

The fact that not all my colleagues are keen to stay at school as late or be as available to students as I am doesn’t surprise or bother me. The fact that when some of them are at school, if they even attend school, that the level of investment is still so clearly imbalanced? That bothers me.

Schools are designed to do more than indoctrinate students with academic knowledge; many important social mores and acceptable behaviours are learned as well. What lessons does this negligence send to youth – the future of this country – about the importance of professionalism?

In the education system, as with many departments within the public service, bureaucratic disciplinary procedures overwhelmingly favour the employee. Overworked and under-resourced principals should not have to be glorified babysitters. Rather, teachers should have the professional maturity and work ethic to do the job which they are paid to do by South African taxpayers. And until the repercussions for their systemic apathy become severe enough to elicit a change or the entire educational community – top to bottom – refuses to condone this behaviour, students, helpless victims of this systemic negligence and neglect, will continue to fail.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Shelter from the storm.

“You live in South Africa? Wow. Do you feel safe? Isn’t it really dangerous?”

The majority of entries on this blog have to do with my students, school and – to a lesser extent – observations on life in Cape Town. A very small percentage are on the topic of violence and issues of safety, ironic as this is usually the first topic of discussion people broach with me when I tell them I live in South Africa and work in a township.

Granted, I have (touch wood), been very fortunate when it comes to my personal safety and experiences of violence since moving here almost a year and a half ago. I do have friends though – very close friends – who have themselves been victims of violence in Cape Town, ranging from being pickpocketed to having their homes and cars broken into to being held up at gunpoint to getting hijacked while they were behind the wheel. These people just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. They weren’t making themselves targets, they weren’t being overly risky. It just happened. It is the threat of random violence and crime that is perhaps most real for the average person living in Cape Town.

One cannot however ignore the fact that violence and crime happen all the time, everywhere, constantly. Not just in Cape Town, not just in South Africa, not just in poor countries. People of all walks of life are victim to violence, perpetrators are often similarly diverse. So why then, do people always think of crime and violence when they hear the words South Africa and township? Surely there are other things about this country and communities that are more deserving of recognition?

Well I suppose the statistics don’t help. ( Johannesburg is often called the murder capital of the Southern Hemisphere, and those who are familiar with townships often evoke images of shacks, squalor and desperation when thinking of these centres of population. Not that any of this is necessarily incorrect. Johannesburg is consistently rated as one of the most dangerous cities in the world based on rates of murder and violent crimes, and in townships you will indeed find shacks, squalor and desperation.

But how does this affect the everyday person living in Cape Town? How has it affected my life as a temporary resident? Well for starters, Cape Town isn’t Joburg. Statistically speaking, there is far less reported crime in the Mother City than in the country’s economic capital. But then, there are also many more people living there than here.

A good married couple friend of mine recently had their house broken into in Cape Town. We had all been out for dinner when the husband got a phone call from the security guard informing him that he had caught an intruder literally red handed – laptops, jewellery and passports in hand. The husband left dinner to attend to the matter and soon after we took the wife home to see what was going on. When we arrived, the intruder was being forced to kneel, hands behind his head, facing the wall. Who knows how long he had been that way. One of the security guards was standing directly behind him, a knee in the guy’s back. If the guy moved an inch, the security guard yelled at him and pushed him forward with his knee. 2 laptops, an xbox, 2 external hard drives, a myriad of jewellery and an assortment of colognes and perfumes were among the loot that was found on the guy when they apprehended him. Based on where my friend had her jewellery hidden and how much of the house he had covered, they estimated that he had been in the house for close to half an hour when they found him.

The police arrived about 45 minutes later. First came two black police officers who took an inventory of the goods that had almost been stolen and talked to the homeowners. A white officer arrived about half an hour later. Gruff, hostile and abrupt, he spoke to the other officers as though they were underlings. I did not like this man. After about an hour all of the officers prepared to leave. They cuffed the intruder who was still kneeling outside facing the wall (and had by now been doing so for the better part of two hours). Once they had cuffed him they ordered him to stand up. As he slowly eased back since undoubtedly his knees and legs were numb, the white officer lost his temper and yanked the guy into a standing position by his handcuffed hands behind his back, dislocating the screaming man’s shoulders in the process. Human arms are not designed to move this way. I felt ill. One can only imagine what happened to this man once he was in police custody.

I am not empathizing with criminals of course, and this is surely due to a Western (humanitarian?) upbringing which generally forces me to first consider circumstance before passing judgement. Regardless, I had great difficulty seeing the guy being treated this way.

I couldn’t help thinking that my friends were surprisingly calm about the whole break-in episode. Had it been my home that had been broken into and ransacked, the feeling of violation and I suppose fear that I imagine I would have felt would not have been palatable. But they were calm. When I spoke to the wife she told me that in the big picture, this wasn’t a big deal. Even if the things had been taken, they were just that – things. She then told me a story of a friend of hers who lives in Johannesburg. Her friend’s husband she said, concerned about the safety of his family and pregnant wife, had installed some security measures that my friend thought completely over the top. They included a metal wall that could lock off the top half of the house from the bottom half, and a bullet-proof saferoom. These seemingly overly cautious precautions ended up saving their lives when armed men broke into their home in the middle of the day and shot at the husband as he dove into the safe room where his pregnant wife was already waiting. When the baby was born (premature), because of the shock and excess of adrenaline that had been released into the mothers system during this experience, it was riddled with birth defects and died a few days later.

Based on knowledge of this experience then, it is not surprising that my friends’ reaction to their break-in was so subdued.

In recent weeks following the break-in at my friends home, my housemates and I too, have had a couple of scares though admittedly far tamer than any of the aforementioned. About a week ago I was at home alone and getting ready to go out. As Catherine’s room is the only room with a proper full length mirror, I went from my room at the back of the house to hers at the front. As I switched on the light in her room I heard a loud rustling sound and a quick movement behind the curtains. I froze. After what seemed like an eternity I crept into her room towards the curtain. When I pulled it aside there was nothing there but her window was open. I found this strange as Catherine is generally quite diligent about locking her window, but assumed she must have forgotten and wrote off the experience to a cheeky cat. After greeting me when she came home a few hours later, the first thing Catherine asked me was if I knew why her window was open. Apparently she distinctly remembered closing it as rain was forecasted. A survey of her room found her bicycle helmet which she religiously keeps on her bike’s handlebars, sitting on her windowsill. This meant that it had been a person responsible for the noise and movement I had heard, and that this person had unlocked Catherine’s window and been unable to pull the helmet through the bars on the window. Despite knowing that the person could not have gotten into the house because of the bars, this was still disturbing given that I had been in the house at the time.

Three nights ago my other housemate Suzanne was at home alone sitting on her bed reading. Her window was open when she was startled by a sound on the front porch. She moved aside her curtain only to be greeted with a man, no older than 20, staring her right in the face from the other side of the window. She screamed in surprise and he did not move. After staring her down for a few moments he then casually made his way down our front steps and climbed over the wall separating our house from the sidewalk (we have a front gate).

Although nothing actually ‘happened’ in either of these incidents, it has made us more wary and aware of our wellbeing. Noises on the roof that I have always thought to be (and almost certainly are), cats, now make me jump. I triple check that doors and windows and that my car is locked whereas before I wouldn’t have given it a second thought. These minor lifestyle adjustments pale however in comparison to the fear that so many of my students live with every day. These kids are robbed, assaulted, stabbed, raped…on a daily basis. Even the walk home can be treacherous. Driving one of my students home the other day, he kept thanking me for doing so as to walk home at that time of day he said, was dangerous. Gangsters would rob you if they knew you had even R5. It was 4:30pm and the sun was just beginning to take its first steps in its decent across the sky.

So what does all this mean? Who knows. Do I feel safe? For the most part I do. Do I take unnecessary risks? Not if I can help it. Do I live in fear or am I overly cautious? Definitely not. Violence can and will happen at random and to anyone. It may happen here more than the average town, but most of the time I don’t feel any less safe than I have on the streets of my hometown, which in part due to its low crime rate, has been voted one of the best places in the world to live. (

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

On beauty.

As part of the grade 11 English Literature curriculum, students study Shakespeare’s ‘Sonnet 104’.

Sonnet 104

To me, fair friend, you can never be old,
For as you were when first your eye I eyed,
Such seems your beauty still. Three winters cold
Have from the forests shook three summers’ pride,
Three beauteous springs to yellow autumn turn’d
In the process of the seasons have I seen,
Three April perfumes in three hot Junes burn’d,
Since first I saw you fresh, which yet are green.
Ah, yet doth beauty, like a dial-hand,
Steal from his figure and no pace perceived;
So your sweet hue, which methinks still doth stand,
Hath motion and mine eye may be deceived:
For fear of which, hear this, thou age unbred;
Ere you were born, was beauty’s summer dead.

As an introduction to the poem, I wrote the following assignment on the board:

‘You have just met the most beautiful person you have ever seen. Write a poem to this person describing their beauty and the effect it has had on you.’

While sometimes written assignments are met with groans and protest by this group, this day they wasted little time getting down to business. After a sufficient amount of time I collected their books and put the pile on my desk. Whenever I ask students to read their written work out to the class, it is rare to get any volunteers. To avoid this, I decided to take the pressure off of them. One by one, at random, I read out their poems to the class. I kept each book hidden so that they wouldn’t know whose I was reading, and not once did I tell them author of the poem that was being read.

As I have mentioned in earlier blogs, while on the whole I thoroughly enjoy my job and working with teenagers, there are particular lessons that stand out in my mind as extra special. This day was one such lesson. The students’ reactions to the poems were entertaining beyond belief. Cheering when someone used an effective metaphor…crying out as if in church when beautiful images of beauty and love were expressed, it was a truly lively and interactive experience for all in the classroom.

Then the lunch bell rang. And not one moved. They stayed 15 minutes past the end of the period to hear all of the poems. I cannot recall even one lesson at any grade level that I have taught, in any school, in any country, where students willingly stayed that long after the lunch bell had rang, without any encouragement from the teacher. It was amazing.

Some of my favourite poems follow.
Note: Have made some minor editorial and grammatical changes to facilitate the reading of the poems.

Just look at how beautiful you are.
You are glittering like a star at night
Your smile attracts, even in my dreams.
You are like a birch tree with smooth black
beauty skin.
You smell like a rose at spring,
Your lips taste like an apple orchard.
Just look at how beautiful you are.

Gorgeous Girl

Hey you gorgeous!

Your beauty is in my heart
Your eyes are sexy like nothing on earth

Your voice is making me happy. When you talk,
to me its like nothing my ears have ever heard.

Your smile makes me happy. When you smile
at me you rub my heart.

I like the way you are beautiful.
It makes my heart feel like I’m dreaming…

Hey you gorgeous! You make me feel happy.

Your beauty…brightens
up the room, it gives life
to the corpses.

Your beauty is very dangerous:
It made me blind.

Your beauty is like water in the

When its stormy and
you walk out of
the room the sky
changes like the
clap of a hand or
a beat of the heart.

Your beauty is like
when the sun is setting
and the sky is all relaxed

Your beauty is like an infant
so innocent and pure.

My beautiful black berry
Your small eyes and cool lips
You smile like a shining star
When I see you my eyes start
To be happy my mind tends to
Wander. My life without you
Wouldn’t mean a thing.
What a surprise in my life!
Your soft black body makes me smile every day.
I wonder what life would be without you.

A red rose!

She is a red, red rose
That is newly sprung in June.

Her eyes glisten with love
With her hair so beautiful
upon her cheeks and falling
along her neck like jewels,
so vivacious and shiny.

There is a fragrance about her!
Yes, and can only be recalled by
The sound of her name.
Her teeth as white as a
Newly born goat.

She is a
red, red

I have met an angel

I have met an angel that
touched my heart.
I have met an angel that
blinded my eyes
because her beauty is like
a star shining in the night.
I have met an angel that
made me forget about everything.
I have met an angel
that no mortals can
describe because she
looks like she was picked
From heaven.
Her beauty shocked
Me like I was seeing
A ghost that wanted
To take my soul and
Tear my heart apart
Like my heart was a building
That was exploded by a
Nuclear bomb. I wish
I could see an angel
As beautiful as that again
Deep inside my heart
She has a special room
That is covered
With white and red roses.
When we meet again I will

As a follow up assignment after we had spent some time deconstructing the poem, I had the students rewrite the poem in their own words. Again, the results were astonishing.

Sonnet 104

Your beautiful face will never change in front of my eyes since the day I saw you. You are like the wind of winter that stripped my heart to be at a warm place and I wish your beautiful face could turn to be yellow. Your beautiful face has burned my heart into ashes. Since the day I saw you you were like a newborn baby that charmed the eyes of the world. Nobody could describe your beauty and instead just wish to praise you. You are sweet as a peach. Your beauty fooled me like it was a dream and I proclaim to the next generation that no one can compare to your beauty, even if you don’t remain.

Beautiful friend

Your beauty seems to be always
shining when you wake up or didn’t
go to bath you stay as brand new,
like you are fresh shining every day
and night like you are swimming in a
new bath full of Reach Fresh and
the best of all times. The first time
I saw you you were so whiteness like a
basket full of peaches and creams.
Teeth eyes hair everything about you day and night
summer winter spring autumn,
you stay shining as you are a sun in the midday heat
or a star in the midnight sky.
You were born to be the greatest example of beauty
I have ever seen.

Sonnet 104

Your age will never change your beauty
Beautiful friend.
For it seems the same as it was when
I first saw you.

Three years have passed
Since I first saw you
But you are still fresh and green.

Oh! No but beauty
Like a tortoise on a journey
Fades from the one it is glued to
That no one can recognize it.
In the same way your lovely beauty
That seems to be unchanging
Is really changing and my eyes and view
May be tricked.

But if it is,
I proclaim to future generations:
The most beautiful one in the world
died before your birth.

Sonnet 104

Your beauty does not change
It’s just the same as the first
time I saw you. Since then the
violent, windy cold winters
have turned to be three hot
summers. Then the trees
And leaves turned yellow
But when it became older
It was ruined, dry, dying.
Ever since I say you you were very
beautiful and even now you are
still hot and beautiful and young
and your beauty moves, changes
very slowly and no one can see it
when it changes. In the same way
as your beauty changes your beauty seems
unchanging and my eye is being
fooled by your beauty and
there is no one that I can compare
your beauty with and I’m making
this proclamation about the great
beauty of my friend.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Unforgettable fire.

The day I will never forget

The day I will never forget in my life is the day that my parents shows how much they hate me. It was on the 1st day of January in 2009. the day that was windy and very rainfull. I was drunk because of having strested and I told my self that I am eating New year. My mother called my father and she told him I am drunk so he must quickly beat me.

My mother was here on Cape Town and me and my father were in Transkaaie. I was living on my mother’s home and someone was a rumour and he?she told my mother that I am drunk. My mother didn’t even ask questions and she called my father that he must quickly go out and fetch me to my fathers home. My father came and he didn’t even as too he just said “Hey you damn come here!” I didn’t even go slowly I said with an afraid voice “I am coming.” On the road to his home he stops the car and park it he beat me like he is playing boxing. I cryed no one give a damn about me. He stop beating me and we go when we arrived to his home he beat me again with a cane, I cryed no one feel sorry for me. That was the day that I realise that they both hate me. My mother didn’t react like a woman she didn’t even said to me if you get drunk again I will call your father as she makes me become scared, no she just do it.

On that day I end up telling my self that I am going to be what I want to be in future no matter what. There is a saying when is going to be white it first become black and it end up white thats what I told my self on that day. That day is the day I will never forget in my life, I even wrote the date of it in my dairy so that I can’t forget it. My parents hate me and there are more things that they keep on doing to me, like I came with a mistake on Earth.


The day I will not forget

The day I will not forget when I start to go to Fezeka Senior Secondary School. I was so nervous and scared becouse in that year was my firs day in high school. And when I get in I saw all the learners wearing their uniform but me I didn’t wear the uniform becouse of money.

The day school opened I was having little happy, because am starting the new school But I was shaking, scared and nervous. Becouse I never saw people like that in my life. Other people they think that I am a boring person becouse most of the time like to keep quit for a moment and set down and think about my personal things. After that my sister go to principal’s room and tell him that in don’t have a uniform. He said: “don’t strees it’s not the big deal as long as she will came to school becouse other parent they don’t have money to buy the uniform although she will wear the black and what.”

And then I go to class and I saw my friend at premiry and we chatted about that morning and other thing. The first teacher got to the class and start introduce her name to use and also we do so. But the third teacher she came with attitude. The name of that teacher is ***. She said “Why are you wearing the black and white do you think this is a funeral or we go to funeral. who died? Please tell your mother to bought you the uniform you make our school derty please girl.” I was so the “ouch” the teacher can talk like that, I can’t believe that. I go to home with a broeken hart. On that year day I started to hate her becouse she embarrassed me in front of the class and learners they lough becauswe she want the learners to knowe her that what kind of the person she is?

What I say the teacher will not judge or have a right to do things like that becouse you don’t know are you going to be. And you don’t know about your next day that are you going and is the people that you cretized is going to help you one day.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

you can be my father figure...

The poetry group continues to gather steam. When we met on Friday we were a smaller group than Tuesday, but as there were exams in the afternoon for only certain students, many of those who were not writing had been dismissed, left early or had not attended school at all that day.

Students assembled in my classroom during lunchtime as usual. Seated in a circle, those who had not yet shared their poems on growing up did so, and others read an original one of their choice. A young man had written a poem about the political situation in this country which prompted many students to share their opinions on the new president. It was inspiring to see so many of them with such strong opinions. One of the young women in the group then read a poem she had written to her absent father who left before she was born, and whom she had never known. Her powerful piece of writing was called ‘Where are the fathers?’, and resonated with many of those in the group.

The conversation that sprouted from the topic of her poem momentarily put the poetry reading on hold. While single mother-headed homes and families are no rarity anywhere in the world, they are especially common among my students and in township contexts. As such, almost everyone in the group had something to contribute to the conversation, myself included. The boys in the group felt strongly that for them, growing up without a father was more difficult than for their female colleagues. Reminding them that it was not a competition and that it is difficult for anyone to qualify or quantify an experience for someone else, I listened to them talk.

The conversation that followed was nothing short of intense. Feelings of loneliness, responsibility, so many questions never answered… were all among the thoughts expressed by the students who grew up without a father in their life. One boy explained to me how it was especially difficult for a man in his culture (he is Xhosa, but the same could be said for Sethos and Tswanas) as when a boy decides to become a man (the circumcision ritual - he must declare the clan with which he is affiliated and the father figure in his life usually vouches for him. This, the boys said, is when fatherless young men miss their fathers the most. They feel lost without this guidance and support and a sense of not belonging during their cultural coming-of-age ceremony. A culture very steeped in tradition and a strong belief in the supernatural, the spirits of your ancestors are said to haunt you if you do not align yourself with the clan of your forefathers. Not knowing your father then, makes this difficult, and apparently is a burden that many young men struggle with during this time.

Sooner or later, as conversations about my students’ family lives often do, the issue of abuse and domestic violence was raised. I never fail to be amazed at how a topic that is so incredibly sensitive and generally hush-hush in Western contexts is frequently discussed so freely amongst my students. Perhaps rates of incidence make the topic of violence and abuse not as taboo as in other milieus, or at least those in which I have previously been immersed. Or perhaps not. Either way, I am always surprised at the ease with which they discuss the tragedies that befall them so regularly.

They spoke about living with violence and the ways in which it has shaped their views of the world. I introduced them to the concept of a ‘cycle of violence’, and we discussed the ways in which they – both male and female – can break this pattern of behaviour. Two of the more vocal young men both spoke of times they had seen their mothers abused by their partners and what effect it had on them as witnesses. Both said that they have sworn they would never become the kind of man who would do that to their woman.

The saddest part of the discussion came for me when one of the young men – who to look at does not give the impression of coming from an abusive home (whatever that means), a strong, handsome, bright kid, outgoing and friendly, one of the top students in his year – said that he believes that once you have lived with violence, you can never live without it, or at least the threat of it. Growing up always knowing that there was a clap or a kick or a punch close by he said, had taught him to expect abuse and for some time had made him almost unable to function without it. He is learning to live a life without violence, he told us, although he still expects it sometimes. He too said that he would never be one to abuse his wife or children, that seeing the effect it had on his mother and himself has taught him that much. He would however make one exception, he continued. Looking out the window away from the rest of the group as he spoke, he told us of his mother’s screams that he would never forget and that no matter what else happens in his life, he is just waiting for the right day to exact revenge on the man responsible for her cries.